Episode 407: "Down the Rabbit Hole" (SPOILERS!)
Here are my reactions to Episode 407 of the OUTLANDER TV series, titled "Down the Rabbit Hole".
*** SPOILER WARNING!! ***
There are SPOILERS below! If you don't want to know yet, stop reading now.
I laughed when I saw the opening shot, with Brianna making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It's not only a reference to a later scene in this episode, but very obviously a reference to the sandwich that Book Claire takes with her on her return to the past in VOYAGER.
As the episode begins, Brianna has just arrived in the past and is attempting to orient herself using what appears to be a map of 18th-century Scotland. I love the scenery in these shots, showing the Highlands in winter. A cold and desolate place, but beautiful.
Bree catches a glimpse of a farmhouse far in the distance, then, distracted, loses her footing and tumbles down the hill, spraining her ankle and spilling the contents of her bag. (Why didn't she bring a bag or satchel that could be fastened shut? That makes no sense to me, especially considering how much it rains in Scotland.)
Good idea to soak her injured ankle in the cold water of the stream, in lieu of ice, but it's not going to help much. With no way to call for help and no choice but to keep going, she hobbles down the path.
Meanwhile, back in 1971, Roger and Fiona are driving through a very similar wintry Highland landscape, on their way to Craigh na Dun. As Roger gets out of the car, we can see immediately that he's shaved off his beard. I like the clean-shaven look very much! He looks much younger without it.
Fiona asks if he has everything, and Roger runs down the list: "Money, maps, compass, knife, gemstone." The last item is important, because in the TV show (unlike in the books) a gemstone appears to be required for time-travel.
As Roger approaches the tallest stone, he appears to visibly take a deep breath, then closes his eyes (in prayer?) and touches the stone.
Meanwhile, back in the 18th century, Bree is making camp for the night, using 20th-century matches to light a fire. I laughed a little when I saw this, thinking, "This is Brianna, of course she'd think to bring matches!" For the book-readers, this is an inside joke, reminding us of the matches she invented in A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES.
And then she unwraps the peanut butter and jelly sandwich she brought with her from 1971.
Judging by the changing light, she walks all the next day, limping on her injured ankle. (Why didn't she cut a sturdy branch from one of those trees to use as a walking stick?) Near sundown she collapses from exhaustion, leaning against a tree....
....and dreams of being a little girl, waking after a long car ride to find herself in her daddy's arms. "It's all right," he says. "We're home now." Awww! Such a sweet moment, and very much in character for Frank.
Bree wakes to find herself in bed in a room she's never seen before, with a strange woman peering curiously at her. Only we recognize the woman instantly: it's Laoghaire.
Laoghaire is amazingly hospitable, kind, even friendly toward this total stranger, showing a side of her character we never saw in the OUTLANDER books. Still, I'm reminded of this incident that Jenny describes in a letter to Jamie in THE FIERY CROSS:
I left them in the evening, and had made some way towards home when my mule chanced to step into a mole’s hole and fell. Both mule and I rose up somewhat lamed from this accident, and it was clear that I could not ride the creature nor yet make shift to travel far by foot myself."I'm trying to reach Ayr Harbour," Bree says.
I found myself on the road Auldearn just over the hill from Balriggan. I should not normally seek the society of Laoghaire MacKenzie--for she has resumed that name, I having made plain in the district my dislike of her use of “Fraser,” she having no proper claim to that style--but it was the only place where I might obtain food and shelter, for night was coming on, with the threat of rain.
(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 99, "Brother". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
"You're far away from any harbor I know of, lass. Were ye truly of a mind to walk by yourself?"
I had the same question. Did she really intend simply to walk (or hitch a ride) all the way from Craigh na Dun to wherever the nearest major seaport was -- in winter, without adequate food, clothing, or shelter -- without ever stopping at Lallybroch? If "Ayr Harbour" is a reference to Ayr, a town south of Glasgow, that's several hundred miles south of where Craigh na Dun is supposed to be.
Notice that Bree doesn't react at the sound of Laoghaire's name. I wonder why not? As we find out later in the episode, Bree knows all too well exactly who Laoghaire is.
I like the next scene, with Bree lying in bed, listening to Laoghaire and Ian arguing downstairs about the money Jamie owes her, while simultaneously remembering her parents' huge argument on the night of Claire's graduation from medical school, as we saw in Episode 303, "All Debts Paid". I think it's very realistic that Brianna would have vivid memories of that incident from her childhood.
Bree comes downstairs, wrapped in her blanket, and Ian, hearing her speak, says, "Oh! An outlander?" That made me laugh. But Laoghaire shoos her back upstairs before she can be introduced to Ian. This seems very contrived, designed only to delay the moment when Bree figures everything out, and I didn't like it.
I like the look of Balriggan from the outside. It's considerably smaller than Lallybroch, a comfortable-looking home for Marsali and Joan to grow up in.
The next morning, Bree finds Laoghaire and Joan working in the garden. They speak briefly about Ian's visit the night before, and Laoghaire refers to him only as "kin of my former husband", without giving his name.
The scene between Brianna and Joan is sweet.
"He was good and kind to me always, but he broke Ma's heart. He didna love her as she loved him."
"I could say the same about the man who raised me. My mother didn't love him the same way in return."
Flashback to a scene between Frank (very drunk) and a teenage Brianna. On Frank's desk, Bree finds what appears to be a photocopy of the same death notice Roger found in 1971, but of course the names on it mean nothing to her.
"Um....it's complicated." Yeah, no kidding!
Bree's speech beginning, "So, Professor Randall...." made me laugh, because I believe that's Sophie Skelton speaking in her normal British accent. <g>
"What is it?" she asks, in her normal voice, and Frank looks away, up at the ceiling, anywhere but directly at her. Finally he sits down opposite her, takes her hand, and says, "Bree, I'm sorry....I can't."
And then he all but orders her out of his office, telling her to go home.
I liked this whole scene very much. It's not in the books, but it's plausible.
Meanwhile, back at Balriggan in the 18th century, Bree is preparing for bed when Laoghaire comes in. They have a friendly chat about husbands, and Laoghaire tells her how her "last husband" took a beating for her. (Again, Bree doesn't appear to recognize the story. Did Claire never tell her about that?)
Laoghaire's description of the sweet little domestic scene, she and Jamie and the two girls gathered around the fire, telling stories from the Bible, reminds me of a scene Jamie recalled in ECHO:
"Perhaps I did have something to do wi’ the books, aye?” Jamie said, after a bit. “I mean, I read to the wee maids in the evenings now and again. They’d sit on the settle with me, one on each side, wi’ their heads against me, and it was—” He broke off with a glance at me and coughed, evidently worried that I might be offended at the idea that he’d ever enjoyed a moment in Laoghaire’s house. I smiled and took his arm.But I thought the "bedtime story" scene here went on much too long. They made the point -- Laoghaire is a reasonably sympathetic figure, and Bree is bonding with young Joan -- and the story was starting to drag. So I was relieved when the scene switched abruptly to Roger's point of view.
“I’m sure they loved it. But I really doubt that you read anything to Joan that made her want to become a nun.”
“Aye, well,” he said dubiously. “I did read to them out of the Lives of the Saints. Oh, and Fox’s Book of the Martyrs, too, even though there’s a good deal of it to do wi’ Protestants, and Laoghaire said Protestants couldna be martyrs because they were wicked heretics, and I said bein’ a heretic didna preclude being a martyr, and—” He grinned suddenly. “I think that might ha’ been the closest thing we had to a decent conversation.”
(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 79, "The Cave". Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Roger's first meeting with Stephen Bonnet, captain of the Gloriana, doesn't go well. Bonnet insists he's taking no one else on board. When Roger follows him outside and asks if he might join the crew, Bonnet takes one look at his soft historian's hands and says scornfully, "Your hands are better suited for writing letters than sailing."
Ed Speleers is more or less channeling Stephen Bonnet throughout this episode, IMHO, which is amazing to watch.
"What's your name?"
And with that, Roger takes on the name he'll be known by for the rest of the series. I felt a satisfying little "click" as one more piece of the overall story fits into its rightful place. <g>
Meanwhile, back at Balriggan, Bree is in a much happier mood, even singing a bit of the classic "Summer of Love" song, "San Francisco", saying it was Claire's favorite. Still, I'm getting impatient, wondering when, or if, she's ever going to move on.
"And who might your mother be?"
I love the look of total shock on Laoghaire's face when she hears this, but she shows more self-control than I thought she was capable of, managing to continue speaking civilly to Brianna.
"He must be a good man, this Frank Randall, to have raised a daughter such as ye."
I like the parallel there between Frank raising Brianna and Laoghaire raising Marsali and Joan. It's not stated openly, but the subtext is there. Laoghaire was a good mother to her daughters in spite of everything, just as Frank was a good father to Bree, in spite of everything.
The scene shifts briefly to another flashback, with Frank asleep on the sofa in his study. Bree comes in with a tray of tea things, and immediately it's clear that this scene is taking place the morning after the previous scene where Frank showed her the death notice.
Frank definitely seems hung over in this scene. Not surprising considering how much he was drinking the night before!
"Have you ever thought about studying abroad?" Uh-oh.
Before we can digest the implications of this statement, we're back at Balriggan, where Laoghaire has definitely changed her attitude toward Bree.
"I dinna like to repeat such things myself--" Yeah, right. "--but there are some folk who say there was no room in his heart for a bairn--" LIAR!! "--and he sent your mother away upon findin' she was with child." (Well, OK, the last part is true enough.)
"I only hope he doesna turn ye away for a second time." Wow, that's awfully harsh! Imagine Bree carrying that thought in her head for weeks, until she finally meets Jamie for herself.
So it's pretty subtle, but we can see Laoghaire's true nature beginning to assert itself, breaking through the veneer of good manners, moments before she explodes:
"Did they send ye here, is that what's happened? Did they send ye here to laugh at me, or did ye bewitch me yourself? You're a witch just like your ma."
Bree goes upstairs to pack her things, only to find Laoghaire following her. "Your mother should have burned at the stake in Cranesmuir!"
And suddenly, belatedly, the truth hits Bree like a ton of bricks, as she realizes just who Laoghaire is. I loved the way Sophie played this whole scene.
When Bree said, "And the truth is that Jamie Fraser has never loved you," I was sure Laoghaire would slap her. Instead, she storms out, locking the door behind her. Bree looks frantically for an escape route, but there is no way out.
Abruptly the scene shifts to Boston, circa 1966, immediately following Claire and Frank's huge argument. Bree is walking with friends at night when Frank pulls up alongside her in his car.
"Hop in," he says, and she does (without a word to her friends!) "Your mother and I are getting a divorce," Frank announces.
And they proceed to have an Extremely Serious, Deep Personal Conversation in the car, of all places. I thought that was weird, and very inappropriate. Surely there are lots of places in Boston he could have taken Bree to tell her. A restaurant, a coffee shop, his office at Harvard -- anywhere they could sit and look each other in the eyes. Instead he delivers this shocking, life-altering news to his daughter in the cramped confines of a car's front seat. That makes no sense to me at all.
"And you just decided all of this tonight?"
Bree is speechless with shock, barely able to form any words.
"We had a plan. We were supposed to go to Harvard together, Daddy! I'm studying history, we were gonna share your office, and--"
Sorry, but I think that's ridiculous. A college freshman sharing an office with her professor father? I can understand wanting to study history as a way to be closer to Frank, but this "plan" seems like they were taking things too far, possibly to an unhealthy degree.
"I know, I know, and a thousand years ago, your mother and I had a plan as well." Good line.
"But, you know, sometimes life takes unexpected turns. And when it does, you know what we do? We soldier on." Book Frank certainly did that all his life. I'm not so sure that was what TV Frank was doing.
I like the fact that the last thing Frank said to her was, "I love you," considering that this was the last time she saw him alive.
The little scene at the graveyard is heartbreaking, but mostly because Bree is feeling a tremendous amount of (undeserved) guilt over Frank's death, and it doesn't seem as though there is anyone she can share it with. Aside from her mother (who is presumably going through her own grieving process), there's no one who can hold her and tell her it wasn't her fault, and I think that's very sad.
In the next scene, Roger is at sea aboard the Gloriana. The song the little girl is singing comes straight from the book:
In marked contrast to the general air of pallid malaise, one of his acquaintances was skipping in rings around him, singing in a monotonous chant that grated on his ears.And now we get our first glimpse of Morag MacKenzie and her baby Jemmy. I was very surprised that Stephen Bonnet was the one who finally got the baby to stop crying, by putting a bit of whisky on his gums -- exactly as we saw Jamie do in THE FIERY CROSS. As he puts a finger in the child's mouth, you can clearly see that he's wearing Claire's wedding ring, which he stole from her in Episode 401, "America the Beautiful".
“Seven herrings are a salmon’s fill,
Seven salmon are a seal’s fill,
Seven seals are a whale’s fill,
And seven whales the fill of a Cirein Croin!”
Bubbling with the freedom of release from the hold, the little girl hopped around like a demented chickadee, making Roger smile in spite of his tiredness.
(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 38, "For Those in Peril On the Sea". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
"A wise man leaves those things beyond his power to the gods--and prays that Danu will be with him." This quote is also from the book (DRUMS chapter 39, "A Gambling Man")
Late that night, Roger is awakened by the sound of a woman's screams. The little girl who was singing in the earlier scene has been found to have smallpox, and Bonnet orders Roger to throw her overboard.
Just like that, the dramatic tension in this episode surges upward, and my stomach clenches involuntarily, watching this. It's actually worse, I think, in this version than it was in the book, for several reasons:
1) It's not some anonymous passenger or a tiny infant being thrown overboard, but a cute little girl we'd seen happily singing a few minutes before. A character we've gotten to know, if only very briefly.
2) The idea that Roger might actually be forced to kill the child himself is shocking, and nearly unbearable to contemplate.
3) Roger mentioned sharks in the water earlier. If that's true, the child will be lucky to die by drowning before she's torn apart -- not by a theoretical Cirein Croin (sea monster), but by all-too-real sharks.
4) Bonnet shoved the little girl overboard with no expression on his face, as though she wasn't even a human being to him. If you still have doubts about what kind of a man Stephen Bonnet is, that should put them to rest.
Horrible. And absolutely riveting to watch.
I was wondering where William Buccleigh MacKenzie was all this time, and then I noticed a blond-haired man lying face-down on a bunk as Roger comes through the hold, asking, "Have you seen a young mother, a bonny lass?" I could be wrong, but it's possible that could be Buck.
"I'll swear on my own woman's life," Roger tells Morag -- another quote that comes directly from the book.
Meanwhile, back at Balriggan, Bree is trying without success to force the window open so she can escape from the locked room. And suddenly, here comes Joan to the rescue, unlocking the door.
That was REALLY predictable, if you ask me. There are only two other people in the house: one is a sworn enemy, the other is a friend, if a young one. So either Joan lets her out, or Laoghaire leaves her locked up forever, until she starves to death. Well, obviously we need Bree to survive this experience, so it shouldn't be any surprise at all that it's Joan who comes to save her.
And the next thing you know, Bree and Joan arrive at Lallybroch.
I liked Ian's reaction to meeting Brianna. He's quiet, low-key, matter-of-fact about it, but you can tell he's happy to see her.
I like that desk that Ian gets the purse of money out of. Just gorgeous! I can't recall if we've seen it before.
"You're family." Such a simple statement, but it means a lot, both to him and to Brianna.
I rolled my eyes a bit at the sight of the trunk full of clothes. This is the second time they've used this "clothes that belonged to Claire" device as a way to expand a character's wardrobe (the first time was in Episode 309, "The Doldrums") , and I think it's kind of silly, but I choose to suspend disbelief.
Meanwhile, on the Gloriana, Roger has just brought a bit of food to Morag in the hold, when Stephen Bonnet appears behind them without warning.
The story Bonnet tells about nearly becoming the sacrifice for the foundation of a building comes straight from the book (DRUMS chapter 39, "A Gambling Man").
I like the expression on Bonnet's face as he says, "Heads you live, tails you die," as if it's of no concern to him one way or the other.
Meanwhile, strolling around the market with Ian, Bree is more than a little conspicuous in that coat with the fur collar. Possibly that's what draws Joseph Wemyss' attention to her?
This scene is very close to the book (DRUMS chapter 35, "Bon Voyage"), but it was hard to focus on what Joseph was saying because the actress playing Lizzie (Caitlyn O'Ryan) looks absolutely nothing at all like the description in the book. She's far too old, for one thing. She looks to be in her twenties, at least as old as Brianna if not a few years older. And she's so much taller than Sophie Skelton that she makes Sophie look like a teenager by contrast.
I'm reserving judgment on Caitlyn O'Ryan for the time being, until we see more. The casting people have done a fabulous job overall, and it's too soon to say whether this actress can play a convincing Lizzie, when we've seen her utter a total of three words. So I'll wait and see.
As Bree and Lizzie prepare to board the ship that will take them to America, Bree suddenly sees the ghost of Frank Randall, smiling at her and nodding reassuringly, as if to say, "Don't worry. It's going to be all right. You'll be fine." I thought that was a nice touch, and a fitting way to end the episode.
I hope you enjoyed this recap. Look here for my recaps of all of the OUTLANDER episodes so far, and please come back next week to see my recap of Episode 408.
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